“The Arc of Outreach”
Selected Passages from Genesis to Revelation
August 8, 2004
If your heart doesnt beat for the whole world, your heart doesnt beat with Gods.
I. Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3
II. David, 1 Chron. 16:8-9, 23-24, 28-31
III. Isaiah, Isaiah 49:5-6
IV. Jesus, Luke 24:45-49
V. Pentecost, Acts 2:5-11
VI. Paul, Galatians 3:6-14
VII. Revelation, Rev. 7:9-10
MessageWhen I was looking for Powerpoint backgrounds for this message I found a great NASA web page called The Blue Marble, which offers one of the most detailed digital images of the earth ever made. Its a composite of thousands of pictures made by NASA satellites and astronauts, hand fitted into a complete world map. A typical computer screen is 1000 or 1200 pixels across. The high resolution version of the Blue Marble is 21,600 pixels. Fortunately they also have lower resolution versions available, and thats what youre seeing here. In addition to the animated globe they also have the flat map versions weve been looking at.
But why the focus on this beautiful blue planet this morning? One simple reason: because the heart of God is focused on this planet, or more particularly, on the people who live here. God cares about every people, tribe, tongue and nation. He cares about every person, every man, woman and child. He loves the world, by which John means all who live in the world. He loves them so much he would send his son to die for them. So when you see a picture of the world you see the focus of Gods heart. And if you believe that, then you ought to have it as the focus of your heart as well. The big idea this morning is that if your heart doesnt beat for the whole world, your heart doesnt beat with Gods.
I. Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3
So lets take a fast tour of the Bible. Like someone flying around the world, touching down on the seven continents, were going to fly through Scriptural history and touch down at seven major locations, to see how from Genesis to Revelation God has had a plan for all the nations, all the peoples of the world. The truth is we could touch down in at least a hundred places to make this point, but were going to have to fly over most of them. Lets start at the beginning, in Genesis 12. Just one chapter after the nations are created at the tower of Babel, we find God has a plan to bless them. Genesis 12:1-3 The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. 2"I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
In this chapter God inaugurates his unique plan for blessing all the peoples of the nations of the world: he chooses one nation and one people to be the banner that displays his glory to the others that they might be drawn to him and be blessed. The chosesn nation is the offspring of this one man, Abram, later Abraham, whom God called at the beginning of recorded history, saying Im taking you out from your homeland, Ill make you a great nation, and Ill bless you.
On the surface that sounds like God had a heart only for Abraham, and cared only for his descendants. And thats a common misunderstanding of Scripture. Yes, God did promise to bless Abraham and Isaac and Jacob forever, but his love for them and his blessing of them always had the purpose of blessing all the nations. Dont miss that key phrase in verse 3 all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. Thats the bottom line, the final purpose of Gods dealing with Abraham.
Bob Sjogren, the co-founder of Frontiers, has written a book called Unveiled at Last: Discover Gods Hidden Message from Genesis to Revelation. I disagree with the title, because I dont think the message was ever hidden except from those who didnt want to see it. But I agree with his distinction between Gods top line and bottom line blessings. He points out that in many Scriptural promises there is a top line blessing: do this and you will be blessed, follow me and youll be blessed, etc. But along with the personal blessing, there is almost always discernable a bottom line of blessing for the whole world: I will bless you, and through you all the peoples of the world will be blessed. This theme is repeated in the lives of Isaac and Jacob, and when the Jews go to Egypt, and when God rescues them. In fact at one point God says to Pharaoh: I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
II. David, 1 Chron. 16:8-9, 23-24, 28-31
Gods purpose is to be known by all nations so he can bless all nations. After the Exodus and after the conquest of Canaan and after the period of the Judges, someone named David comes along who puts Gods heart to music. In 1 Chronicles 16, which later became Psalm 96, we see clearly how Gods people are to impact the whole world. 1 Chronicles 16:8-9 Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 9Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. 1 Chronicles 16:23-24 Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. 24Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. 1 Chronicles 16:28-31 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, 29ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. 30Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. 31Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, "The Lord reigns!"
David is described in Scripture as a man after Gods own heart, and these verses are a reflection of Gods heart. David sees that the nation of Israel and its worship are to display the presence of the Lord to the whole world. In the first few verses, Israel tells the nations about the greatness of God: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 9Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. This is evangelism pure and simple, its also the goal of missions: to make God known. Israel is not to keep the truth about God to herself; she is to declare it to others.
A few verses later the effect begins to multiply: Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. 24Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. David calls the nations to respond by telling each other what God has done, telling each other of his salvation, glory and marvelous deeds. Now all the earth and all peoples have the opportunity to sing and worship. This is Gods heart - that the truth of who he is and what He had done not be held onto by his people, but be shared with others so that they can benefit from his greatness.
As a result, in Davids vision of Gods heart, the worship of the Lord spreads to all nations: Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, 29ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. Whole families of nations now come to worship the Lord in his holiness, and the heavens rejoice, the earth is glad, and the nations say The Lord reigns! Gods heart for the nations means he wants to be recognized and worshiped by them, not because of a selfish desire for praise, but because hes the one true God, and its a blessing for people to worship him rather than false gods. God wants to bless the nations.
III. Isaiah, Isaiah 49:5-6
Jumping ahead a few hundred years, this all becomes very clear in the book of Isaiah, as Gods prophet looks forward to the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah 49:5-6, some of my favorite verses in all of Scripture And now the Lord says he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength-- 6he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."
God is not petty. He does not have a small plan for the world, nor does he limit his love to just the descendants of one man or to just one nation. Instead, he intends to bless them all through the life of the one Isaiah calls the Servant, the suffering servant who is honored in Gods eyes. God looks at this servant, Jesus, the Messiah, and says its too small a thing for you to simply rescue the nation of Israel. Its as if God is saying If Im going to offer my Son as a sacrifice its not going to be for anything less than the sins of the whole world. The sacrifice is too valuable to limit it to just one nation or one group of people. God says I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.
Salvation is Gods rescue from sin. And sin is a universal trait, something that plagues and defeats all men and all women in all nations in every age. In his love, God did not send his Son to die for only one group of people when the whole world was in such great need. He sent his Son to bring salvation to all nations. This is one of Isaiahs great themes. Let me read you just two more little excerpts. First, in Isaiah 25, God promised that he was preparing blessing for everyone:
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces. Gods heart beats for the whole word and he longs to remove the shroud and swallow up death for all men and women.
Then, in Isaiah 52 and 53 he reveals that it is through the sacrifice and death of his servant that he will accomplish this. In Isaiah 52:15 we are told that the suffering servant will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. Sprinkling is a sacrificial term that means sprinkling with blood to cleanse - not just one nation, but many. And Isaiah goes on to reveal the Messiah as the one who would be pierced for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. This awesome sacrifice is Gods act of love, pouring out his heart for the rescue of sinners, and were the ones who are petty when we dont see that this sacrifice must be preached to all nations, to all people, to the ends of the earth.
IV. Jesus, Luke 24:45-49
Isaiahs heart beat with Gods. How much more so Jesus heart? It is sometimes said that Jesus didnt look beyond the borders of Israel. But thats not true. The top line of his blessing was for those from among the people of Israel who would deny themselves and follow him, but the bottom line was that he would then send them out to bring his blessing to all nations. Lukes version of the great commission makes this clear. Luke 24:45-49 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
Notice several things. First, Jesus understood Isaiah, and when he opened the Scriptures to them, he probably explained that Isaiah points to the suffering of Christ. Jesus knew himself to be the suffering servant. Second, Jesus understood that the central issue for all people was the forgiveness of sins. Jesus offered himself as a payment for sin, and opened the door so that men and women stained and doomed by sin could turn to him and find forgiveness. The implication is that as we bring Good News about Jesus to the nations, or to the kids at Awana, we have to start with bad news, that all have sinned and fall short of Gods standard of holiness, and that the penalty of sin is death, eternal separation from God. People from every nation need to recognize that they are guilty of rebellion and sin, that they need to turn to Jesus, who alone can offer them forgiveness and eternal life.
This is the Good News that is ready to be preached in his name to all nations. Jesus says start at Jerusalem and wait for the power from above, because as he explains at his ascension, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." This is his program, this is his heart, that the whole earth would hear the Good News of the forgiveness and salvation that he has won.
By the way, there is an undercurrent to this arc of promise I havent mentioned yet. When we see in Scripture Gods heart for all the nations, we often find nearby another promise that reflects an even deeper desire of Gods heart. We find a promise that I will be with you and be your God and you will be with me and be my people. God wants a heart relationship with the people he has created. This desire surfaces just after the fall, and is repeated over and over. His heart for the nations grows from this desire to restore the right relationship between himself and people. He wants to have his presence known among the nations so the people of the nations can know him. These things come together in Matthews version of the great commission: Go and make disciples of all nations. . . etc. . . and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." His heart for the nations and the promise of his presence go hand in hand.
V. Pentecost, Acts 2:5-11
So Abraham and David and Isaiah and Jesus all agree that God has a heart for the nations. Our next stop is 50 days after the resurrection, when God the Holy Spirit showed this same heart at Pentecost. Acts 2:5-11 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!"
This is an interesting text. God timed it so the Holy Spirits power was poured out on the believers at the moment when Jerusalem was filled with visitors. Parthians, Medes and Elamites lived in the east, in areas not yet conquered by the Roman Empire. Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia were the regions immediately around and to the north of Jerusalem, including Syria and Samaria. Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia were to the north, in present day Turkey. Egypt and Libya were on the continent of Africa while Rome was in Europe, Crete was an island in the Mediterranean, and Arabia was a thriving kingdom on the Saudi peninsula. So there were folks from all over. The text tells us they were mostly Jews, though it does mention that some Gentile converts from Rome were also there.
The fact that they were Jewish by birth or conversion shows that God was still working through the Jews to reach the nations. By conquest and hardship he had dispersed the Jews through the known world, preparing the world for the Gospel by spreading the knowledge of himself to the nations. In the book of Acts, when Paul travels, he finds a Jewish community in almost every city, and so he preaches to Gentiles who already knew about the one God worshiped by their Jewish neighbors. Some had even heard about Jesus, because when Peter preached to this crowd at Pentecost, many were saved, and some undoubtedly returned to their homes carrying the Good News. In Acts and in Pauls letters we see that he finds believers in several places before hes even preached. There are believers in Rome, believers on Crete, believers in Greece who are there because of this
international crowd at Pentecost.
VI. Paul, Galatians 3:6-14
So Gods heart is for the nations. The Holy Spirit comes to empower the sharing of the good news with the Gentiles. Paul saw this so clearly. Galatians 3:6-14 Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 7Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." 9So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." 11Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." 12The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." 14He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
The work Jesus did on the cross opens the door so the top line blessing given to Abraham can become the bottom line for the whole world. Paul says the real children of Abraham are those who believe in Jesus. The Jewish people who felt that salvation came from following the law were not Abrahams descendants in any real sense, but Jews and Gentiles alike who have faith become Abrahams descendants: they are redeemed and justified and blessed and given the Holy Spirit.
Paul is fanatic about reaching the people of the world with the Good News about Jesus so they can participate in the blessings God offers. Paul knows its too small a thing for blessing to be offered only to Israel - it has to be offered to the nations. On a heart level we also know that its too small a thing to keep that Good News inside this building. We have to share the blessing with others because Gods heart beats for them and he loves them just as much as hes loved us and wants them to be rescued. We cant keep it inside this building, and we cant keep it inside this community. We have to be part of taking this love and care to the ends of the earth.
At this point I want to take a few minutes out and ask my daughter Bethany to come for a quick interview, to tell us a little bit about what she saw of Gods heart halfway around the world in Manila.
Tell us a little bit about the trip and the kinds of things you saw and did.
How did that affect your heart?
VII. Revelation, Rev. 7:9-10
If our hearts dont beat for the whole world, our hearts dont beat with Gods. I want to close with a quick look at the other end of the Bible where we see the fulfillment of God heart in reaching the nations. In Revelation 7, we see the redeemed gathered in white before the throne of God. Revelation 7:9-10 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
The whole book of Revelation, of course, is the culmination of history, and in this case it is the culmination of Gods desire to rescue people from every part of the world, every nation of the world, every group in the world. What Abraham was promised, and what David depicted and what Isaiah foresaw and what Jesus commanded and what Paul explained is now reality: every nation, tribe, people, and language stand before the throne and they worship. They cry out Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, that is, to Jesus. This is the moment God had been working toward since Adam took that bite from the fruit. It is the reason he allowed his Son to sacrifice himself, it is the purpose he had sovereignly worked out in history from eternity past. Gods heart is for the whole world and in that day his purpose will be fulfilled.
But were not there yet, are we? In this age, in our day, we have a part to play in the drama of redemption, a God-given responsibility to have hearts that beat like his and to reach out, here in our community, cross-culturally on the other side of the street, on the other side of town, on the other side of the ocean, on the other side of the world. The practical response to this obvious, and I can hand it to you in just three words: pray, give and go. Pray for people like Tim, ministering in India, and Saji Lukos, supporting that work there. Give from the heart to support missions, whether our own short term missionaries, or those who go for a lifetime. And go, cross-culturally across the street, or on one of those short-term trips, or for a longer time. Pray, give, go; This is the commission Jesus has given us, to share Gods heartbeat. He said in Matthew 24 This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
As were faithful, and as God works, the end comes closer and closer. We dont know the day or the hour; all we know is our responsibility: to share Gods heart for the world and to bring the love of Jesus to every community. Only then will God fulfill the ages, fulfill his desire for relationship. Revelation 21 is the bottom line for believers from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Thats Gods heart. We need to do our part.